5th June 2018

#MedHat Construction Biz: Ready for New OHSA Changes on June 1st?

Extensive changes to Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety Act, (“OHSA”) are set to come into effect on June 1, 2018.

The Alberta Government has indicated that the changes are designed to better protect workers, ensure workers have the same rights and protections as workers in other provinces and empower workers to participate in the health and safety of Alberta’s workplaces.  The revised OHSA is a significantly expanded law that recognizes new rights and creates new obligations on all Alberta workplaces.  Many owners, employers, supervisors, suppliers and other worksite parties will be required to take proactive steps to comply with the new legislation.

Overview

The OHSA sets the minimum standards for workplace health and safety and outlines the roles and responsibilities of employers and employees.  The broad changes to the OHSA place the following obligations on ALL Alberta workplaces:

  1. Ensure workers have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.
  2. Train and educate all employees, and have policies and procedures in place, with respect to OHSA duties, rights, and responsibilities;
  3. Have in place separate violence and harassment prevention plans, policies, and procedures.
  4. Establish a joint worksite health and safety committee (20+ workers at a workplace) or designate a trained health and safety representative (5-19 workers at a workplace)

Major Changes:

  • Employers must involve workers in health and safety discussions:
    • Employers who employ 20+ workers at a workplace with work that is expected to last 90 days or more must establish a joint worksite health and safety committee. Prime contractors will also be required to establish a joint worksite health and safety committee for the workplace where there are 20 or more workers.
      • These committees will be responsible for, among other things:
        • Inspecting the workplace for hazards;
        • Helping employers respond to health and safety concerns of workers;
        • Helping resolve workers’ refusals of unsafe work;
        • Helping to develop health and safety policies and safe work procedures;
        • Helping with new employee health and safety orientation; and
  • Developing and promoting education and training programs.
  • Employers who employ 5-19 workers at a workplace with work that is expected to last 90 days or more must designate a trained health and safety representative. Prime contractors will also be required to designate a trained health and safety representative for the workplace where there are 5-19 workers.
    • Health and safety representatives will perform the same duties as a health and safety committee.
  • An employer can use an alternative approach to meet these requirements with approval from an OHS director.
  • The employer must provide committee/representative members with compensation and training for their committee/representative work.
  • If a committee or representative brings a health and safety matter to the attention of the employer and makes remedial recommendations, the employer must:
    • Implement the recommendations and inform the committee or representative; or
    • Develop a timeline for implementation and any interim control measures if the changes cannot be implemented within 30 days; and
    • Provide reasons if it disagrees with the recommendations. An OHS officer may settle any disputes.
  • Starting June 1, 2018, employers with 20+ workers at a workplace must establish and implement a written health and safety program. The program must have 10 mandated elements and be reviewed every 3 years.  Employers with less than 20 employees at a workplace must involve workers in hazard assessment and control.
  • The revised OHSA imposes a positive duty on employers and supervisors to ensure that no workers (in the case of employers), and no workers under their supervision (in the case of supervisors) are subject to or participate in harassment or violence at the workplace:
    • Requires employers to develop have in place separate violence and harassment prevention plans, policies, and procedures.
    • Requires review of plans, policies, and procedures at least once every three years.
    • Require employers to investigate incidents of violence and harassment and take corrective action.
    • Require employers to advise workers of treatment options if harmed by violence or harassment. Workers are entitled to wages and benefits while attending treatment programs.
  • The revised OHSA also imposes an obligation that workers refrain from causing or participating in workplace harassment or violence.

Other Substantial/Substantive Changes:

  • Workers have the right to know of potential hazards and have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace:
    • All employers must make available onsite health and safety information about potential workplace hazards and how to eliminate or control them (hazard controls and work practices and procedures).
    • All employers must make safety information readily available onsite (the OHSA, regulations and OHS code).
  • A worker may refuse work if he/she believes on reasonable grounds that there is a dangerous condition at the workplace or that the work constitutes a danger to the worker’s health and safety or to the health and safety of another worker or another person:
    • Workers must continue to be paid while a work refusal is being investigated.
    • Employers must ensure workers understand the hazards at the workplace, know what needs to be reported and have the support to exercise their right.
    • Employers must investigate the matter in cooperation with the joint worksite health and safety committee or health and safety representative, if applicable.
    • Employers cannot take or threaten discriminatory action against a worker for exercising their rights and duties under the OHSA.
    • Other workers may be assigned to the work if they are advised of the refusal, the reason for it and are made aware of their own right to refuse work after the employer determines there is not a risk.
  • The revised OHSA expands an employer’s duties. The employer must, among other things:
    • Ensure the health and safety of its workers, other workers onsite and members of the public in the vicinity of the workplace;
    • Ensure that employees and supervisors are competent to follow OHSA requirements;
    • Ensure that workers are trained to protect their health and safety before starting their work;
    • Ensure that health and safety concerns raised by workers, supervisors, self-employed persons and the joint worksite health and safety committee or health and safety representative are resolved in a timely manner; and
    • Advise the prime contractor of the names of supervisors.
  • The revised OHSA imposes certain duties and liabilities on supervisors. The supervisor must, among other things:
    • Ensure that the supervisor is competent to supervise every worker under the supervisor’s supervision;
    • Take all precautions necessary to protect the health and safety of every worker under the supervisor’s supervision;
    • Ensure that a worker under the supervisor’s supervision works in the manner and in accordance with the procedures and measures required by the OSHA;
    • Ensure that every worker under the supervisor’s supervision uses all hazard controls, and properly uses or wears personal protective equipment designated or provided by the employer or required to be used or worn by the OSHA;
    • Advise every worker under the supervisor’s supervision of all know or reasonably foreseeable hazards to health and safety in the area where the worker is performing work; and
    • Report to the employer a concern about an unsafe or harmful workplace act that occurs or has occurred or an unsafe or harmful workplace condition that exists or has existed.
  • The revised OSHA imposes a positive obligation on suppliers, as far as is reasonably practicable, to, among other things:
    • Ensure any equipment they supply is in a safe operating condition;
    • Ensure any hazardous substances they supply are safe to use when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications;
    • Ensure any equipment they are contractually obligated to maintain is maintained in a safe condition in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications and in compliance with the OSHA;
    • Include user instructions for all equipment; and
    • Provide notice to employers and purchasers of products and equipment when the supplier becomes or ought to become aware that the products or equipment do not comply with a standard under the OHSA and associated regulations.
  • Every construction and oil and gas workplace or a workplace designated by an OHS Director must have a prime contractor if there are 2 or more employers or self-employed persons. The person in control of the workplace shall designate in writing a person as the prime contractor of the workplace.  The name of the prime contractor must be posted in a prominent place at the workplace.  If the person in control of the workplace fails to designate in writing a person as the prime contractor, the person in control of the workplace is deemed to be the prime contractor (typically the owner of the workplace).  The prime contractor is responsible for the overall health and safety of the workplace and will be required to, among other things:
    • Coordinate the health and safety programs of all employers on site;
    • Coordinate, organize and oversee the performance of all work at the workplace to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that no person is exposed to hazards as a result of activities of the workplace; and
    • Establish a process to ensure compliance with applicable legislation.
  • Stop-work orders may now pertain to more than one workplace, or to all of an employer’s workplaces. Where such an order is issued, the workers must still be paid their normal pay and benefits.  Employers may also reassign workers to alternate work.
  • Where a stop-use order is issued, sale, rental, lease or transfer of the subject equipment is prohibited, in addition to use.
  • Employers must now report any injuries where a worker is hospitalized (admitted to a hospital). The revised OHSA also outlines the kinds of incidents that employers must report which now includes incidents that could have caused serious injury, even if no injury occurred.

Conclusion:

1. Ensure workers have access to basic health and safety information in the workplace.

 

2. Train and educate all employees, and have policies and procedures in place, with respect to OHSA duties, rights, and responsibilities, such that, among other things:

  • Workers are trained to protect their health and safety before starting their work;
  • They are competent to follow OHSA requirements; and
  • They understand the hazards at the workplace, know what needs to be reported, and have the support to exercise their right to refuse dangerous work.

 

3. Have in place separate violence and harassment prevention plans, policies, and procedures.

 

4. For employers with 20+ workers at a workplace:

  • Establish and implement written health and safety program; and
  • Establish a joint worksite health and safety committee.

 

5. For employers with 5-19 workers at a workplace:

  • Designate a trained health and safety representative.

Luke Day is a lawyer at Stringam LLP’s Medicine Hat and Brooks offices. He maintains a focus of corporate/commercial law and construction law with a pre-law background as an investment advisor.

Joe Eisenlohr is a lawyer at Stringam LLP’s Medicine Hat and Bow Island offices. He maintains a general practice in corporate/commercial law and construction law. He currently serves on the Board of the CHBA Medicine Hat region.

The foregoing is intended as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone.  Rather, specific legal advice ought to be obtained.

Is your construction business ready to comply with the new OHSA legislation?

Need help updating your policies and procedures?

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Written by Joe Eisenlohr

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Written by Luke Day